Chew, chew, chew – My life on the (lite) gravy train

It has been a month since I decided to get rid of a small bit of stomach for a bigger portion of good health. All in all, it’s been a really good month – the feedback from my friends and colleagues has been positive and it’s looking like this was the absolute right choice for me.

While some may think this was an easy way out, it’s quite the contrary. They tried to warn us about how much detail there is to eating after the surgery. Portions are small and divided between proteins and vegetables/fruits (the only carbs I’m willing to eat) and have to be consumed three times a day. (Meaning I have to stick to something of a schedule)

Two iron, two multis, six calcium, two gummies a day, B-12 once a week. Oh, and at all different times in the day. Welcome to my nightmare

Vitamins, once a “leave the bottle next to your toothbrush and take one a day if you remember” ritual, are now essential because I’m not eating as much, and they have to be taken in certain amounts at certain times because of their individual absorption rate. Contrary to what you may have learned on Schoolhouse Rock, all vitamins don’t get along and some are the bullies of the supplement world.

You would think a writer/consultant like me who works out of a home office most of the time would find it easy to remember to take the right pills at the right time, especially those which are taken with meals. Not a chance. Just because they fixed my tummy doesn’t mean they patched together the scattered parts of my brain.

So I have a little note on my office bulletin board – not that it helps. I spend a good amount of time saying “Oh crap, I forgot to take my calcium” or “That feels like too much iron” and swearing about having to chew every pill into powder (digesting pills is something a stomach sleeve has trouble with for the first few months). And chugging water doesn’t happen anymore, either. Sip, sip, sip. Wait a half-hour, then chew, chew, chew, chew – up to 20 times per mouthful. I’m convinced I have jaws of steel now with those workouts, but it’s for a reason. I also realize what meats have gristle in them (had a hamburger pattie and it was a real chore to eat), that make me happy that I’m trying to stick to just poultry and fish from now on.

Screenshot 2016-02-15 12.47.35If I take that “one more bite,” or take in too much liquid at once, it feels like a gremlin living in the center of my chest is kicking and stretching. Members of my support group told me I would know if I’d taken too many bites and they are absolutely right. It’s not like being Thanksgiving full, it’s more like “ow, ow, OW!” and the only thing that will make it better is letting nature take its course. That and sip-sip-sipping water to help things move along.

That said, I have been able to work normal food back into my menu, so long as it doesn’t have skin or casing on it (my grapes must be peeled, which I think is long overdue). It’s something of a challenge when we’re out; last weekend we ventured to two movies and when we arrived at the second theater, we got there just as the previews started to play. Try and find something that’s full of protein at your local cinema. A hot dog – with mustard and relish, but no bun – was the only thing I could find, and yes, the gremlin was busy that night because I didn’t consider the casing….

I even went to Disneyland last week, vowing to find something edible wherever we went in the park. The turkey sandwich at Jolly Holiday – sans bread, lettuce (hard to digest) and mushy tomato – was delicious. Washed that down with an iced tea, but since I can’t drink at the same time as I eat (again, a space issue in the sleeve), it took me about an hour to drink the small cup’s worth. Later on, ice cream sounded good, so I suggested that my ice-cream loving friend stop into the Golden Horseshoe and get a sundae. I was able to eat three bites of ice cream and was completely satisfied. I’ve become the perfect mooch.

Met the kids and my motivation, Sadie, for a visit to the Carthay Circle lounge for an adult beverage – except my beverage was a Two Bill – their name for an alcohol-free iced tea-lemonade combo. A few hours later, for dinner at Café Orleans, I ordered a cup of French Onion soup.

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Cafe Orleans Pomme Frites. One of my former loves, now not so much.

My son-in-love ordered a basket of Pomme Frites for the table, those delicious thin French fries coated with garlic and Parmesan cheese, which I first said I wouldn’t have, but fell victim to temptation and grabbed one – and it tasted awful! They told me my tastes would change and boy, they were right on this one! I guess if I have to lose a craving for something, this one is OK. Now if only the popcorn at the park didn’t smell so delicious.

C’mon Grammy, let’s go ride Big Thunder Mountain Railway!

One of the best things about Disneyland was that I logged 3.7 miles walking between parks and from ride to ride – a short distance from what I hear from other people, but I’m still proud. I’ve been logging at least a mile a day (with housework activity on the weekend) on trails with my friends – even got to walk 1.37 miles along the beach in Santa Monica with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. Turns out she had some questions about my surgery, which is why I’m including it in my blog subjects (don’t worry, I’m getting ready to jump into the political/election fray soon enough), and you know I’m more than willing to share my experience. I do have more energy and know that moving is critical to my success. I actually think about getting in a walk or some sort of continual movement each night when I plan the following day’s schedule. That’s something I never did before.

A side effect of the surgery, and maybe the weight loss (I am talking to my regular doctor about it today) is that I have developed my own weather system that flips quicker than the heartbeat of a speed freak. One moment I’m fine, then I’m grabbing a sweatshirt (I never used to layer, but now I’m an expert), then I’m stripping off what I can to accommodate a hot flash. Happens 24/7. Chilled to the bone in the middle of the night, huddling close to the pitties for warmth, then throwing off the covers. I may have suppressed the hormone that causes me to be hungry, but I think I accidentally kicked into high gear the hormones I thought I left behind after my hysterectomy six years ago….

And my wardrobe is changing, little by little. I’m wearing my 2- and 3X T-shirts for walking and housework and digging out the smaller shirts from the bottom of the drawer to wear out. Since I have several sizes of pants in the closet, I’ve moved from the biggest to the comfortable ones a size or two down. It’s strange that some of my favorite items now hang or bag a little, at first I was confused, but then I was thrilled! My husband frequently tells me how much difference he’s seeing and that definitely helps me along.

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One step at a time. I can do this.

So the bottom line is that I feel terrific. I have learned a lot about myself, I’m still learning how to live with limitations and I am flabbergasted at how much food is still in the refrigerator (I have to get my hubby to eat more fresh fruit!) because I’m not eating more than a few bites. I learned how to think about what’s on the plate, now I need to learn how to shop for just one and a half people. Either that or invite friends over for my leftovers….thanks all for your support, in person and online.

Now let’s talk about something else that’s eating at me….this upcoming election and what we’re teaching our children…..coming soon!

Birthdays, blessings, beer and brothers


Birthdays are a special kind of blessing. We get spoiled, over-desserted, hear from every friend we have on social media, are greeted by random cast members at Disneyland (best mood lifter EVER, thanks Disney!) and people give us a break because, well, we just made it one more trip around the sun and lived to tell.

beerandcakeIt was even National Beer Day on my birthday, which means asking your friends to pick up your first brew is completely reasonable.

I share my birthday with my Brother from Another Mother, John Boston, along with other stars in my life; former co-workers, fellow volunteers and actors, even a musician who helped me and millions of other adolescent girls through those difficult years around 17.

April 7 is pretty darn phenomenal.

What birthdays do is give you an excuse to check yourself off the work schedule shortly to have some moments of zen with those who know you best. That’s a better gift than any tchotchke that you will have to dust.

What’s even better is the validation that comes from these self-realization conversations. We often have them with people who know our back story, our please-don’t-mention-this moments and can see our invisible backpacks that grow or diminish over time.

In other words, there are no secrets. If you’re lucky, the balance of blackmail material between the two of you is somewhat even. If you’re on the short end, thank your friends for their grace.

I’d also say that Facebook has changed birthdays significantly. People who try and fly under the radar don’t have a chance. My phone died when I went to breakfast and by the time I got home two hours later to plug it in, it sounded like a slot machine on steroids in my office. Way to make a girl feel loved….

I started out by talking about blessings and if nothing else, birthdays give us a chance to count them. I try to make it a practice to do some counting every few days, but the pinging and desserting and drinking were in-my-face reminders – literally.

There’s no question in my mind that my life is blessed. Outside of a few more beans on the family tambourine, I want for nothing. Consolation, career advice, encouragement, enlightenment, love and laughter are there when I need it and I get to offer the same. I have freedom and opportunity, food on my table and a roof over my head. I’m married to my best friend, my children are happy and my dogs get along. Life is very good.

Two award winning writers at the local diner.
Two award winning writers at the local diner.

Back to my BFAM, John. He’s gonna hate this label, but he is kind of a life coach. Not the loopy kind that prey on neurotics, but one with a twisted sense of humor and a heart of gold. He’s led some innocent interns right to the edge of the bear trap and snatched them from the jaws of death before anyone found out. Lucky for me, my early life lessons were in pranksterism, shenanigans and writing edgy copy.

Today, we talked about valuing ourselves, an apt topic for old journos like us who not too long ago stepped over the threshold of 60. We talked less McDonald’s and more Medicare. Our conversation blended religion and politics and the state of our industry. Best of all, we did a lot of validating. At our ages, we can no longer afford to hope that someone will notice when we’re jumping at the fence like the last puppy in the litter. We’ve learned to tie knots in the blankets to find our own way over the chain link.

Nope, these seniors lunching over bowls of oatmeal and chili browns reinforced that we have worth and talent and our billable hours are worth every penny. We write differently, but with the same amount of passion and sincerity. I am truly blessed to have this coach in my life. What a perfect birthday gift.

Something about that magical April 7, I suspect.

Shameless plug: JB’s latest book, Adam Henry, is an interesting read. It’s also VERY thought-provoking, with a disturbing, yet gripping ending. I read it while traveling through snowy mountains and slushy plains enroute from Denver to LA (someone else was driving, no worries). I spent at least an hour after reading the last page a dozen times staring out the window in deep contemplation. It still haunts me. You should buy it and read it too; it’s available on Amazon here: